At CES 2023, Nvidia announced it was bringing a new tier to GeForce Now: the Ultimate tier. With it, users are set to experience RTX 4080-level graphics, frame rates up to 240Hz, and even ultrawide (21:9) monitor capability. Prior to launch, we got some hands-on time with the absolute best in cloud gaming.

What is GeForce Now’s Ultimate tier?

In the world of cloud gaming, there’s a general consensus that GeForce Now ranks among the top options on the market. Previously, its highest tier consisted of RTX 3080-level graphics and performance, combined with up to 120Hz gaming and 4K graphics.

Now, that’s about to change. As if it wasn’t already well-built, GeForce Now is gradually switching the Ultimate tier to RTX 4080-level performance and visuals, as well as up to 240Hz with Nvidia Reflex, and up to 4K resolution with 120Hz – without bumping the price up a cent. Unfortunately, you won’t see 240 frames per second in 4K with the 4080 tier, though achieving either one of those stats is frankly impressive for cloud gaming. Users will see DLSS 3 and RTX ON support with 4K/120.

Users in the Ultimate tier will also see support for ultrawide monitors, which is the biggest and most exciting adjustment in our book. At ultrawide aspect ratios, the cap frame rate will be 120. Specifically, users can use any of these 21:9 resolutions and still take advantage of the new 4080 tier at 120fps:

  • 3840×1600
  • 3440×1440
  • 2560×1080

Experiencing cloud gaming in 21:9

As someone who does most of their work and play on an ultrawide monitor, this new element of GeForce Now hits home more than any other. GeForce Now was usable with a 21:9 display, though it would crunch the stream down to 16:9. Games would run perfectly fine, though you were left with two large vertical bars on either side. It didn’t exactly make GeForce Now a viable gaming option even with the highest tier available. And this is a problem that all cloud gaming services face – Amazon Luna, Xbox Game Pass, and the now dead Google Stadia.

With the newest GeForce Now 4080 Ultimate tier, 21:9 is fully supported. Games like Rocket League, No Man’s Sky, and even Jedi Fallen Order all shine with the extra space on either side. Of course, my experience was capped at 120Hz, which is completely fine by me. Most of the games we tested on the new tier ended up averaging around 120fps anyways, so the extra space for 240 wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest.

On the flip side, GeForce Now’s performance definitely seems to have improved with the new GPU system. Any lag I felt before seems to have completely dissipated, showing up only once in a session of Fallen Order with some unexplained packet loss. The best I could figure was the fact that I was running my game from the US Northeast server while in North Carolina. Just considering that distance, I was shocked at how well things performed.

While RTX 4080 gave me somewhere in the ballpark of 120fps for graphically heavy games, the real shock came when downgrading back to RTX 3080. After the switch, my frames immediately fell down to around 50-60fps – quite the shift in playability. The below image is after the switch back to RTX 3080, with frames hitting around 61 on the streaming side. This result was captured during Jedi: Fallen Order at a standstill, with no input being sent from my PC to Nvidia’s servers.

RTX 3080 yields drastically lower frame rates

One hiccup GeForce Now may never get away from

While the raw performance was nothing short of surprising with the GeForce Now RTX 4080 tier, my experience was still left with the same tinge of a sour taste in my mouth. It may just be me nitpicking and the fact that I’m making this judgment based on a 35-inch 21:9 monitor, but GeForce Now still hasn’t nailed down crisp, detailed gameplay.

This is heavily due to the amount of compression that needs to be done in order to even fit the detail and full picture of a heavily rendered game into a data stream direct to your PC, Mac, or phone. Nvidia does a fantastic job of taking the user’s input, rendering the gameplay, compressing the video, and then sending it out. Once it gets to you, GeForce Now takes it and extracts it, trying to put every pixel exactly where it needs to be. While the process is breathtaking, it can’t currently mimic a local game playing at full resolution absolutely perfectly. What you’re left with is a beautiful picture that’s just the tiniest bit fuzzy.

For 99% of use cases, that’s more than acceptable. In reality, it becomes unnoticeable after a few minutes, but to the discerning eye it’s still there. As far as GeForce Now has come in the last few years with cloud gaming, it’s nowhere near out of the question to assume that this is just another temporary hurdle.

Heavier performance for none of the price increase

GeForce Now’s new RTX 4080 Ultimate tier is undeniably a jump from the RTX 3080 it was based on previously. With that, you might expect a price increase. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. GeForce Now’s Ultimate tier is keeping everything except the technology, remaining at $19.99/month.

While that’s a steep price, it’s justifiable for plenty of users. For instance, you might own a moderately equipped laptop or Macbook hooked up to a USB-C-powered ultrawide monitor. Normally, you’d never get good performance from local games, but one GeForce Now Ultimate tier subscription would turn that setup into one that can go up against a fully built PC with the same monitor. Even then, you might get better performance because you’re not trying to directly power that 21:9 display.

With our very limited time testing and playing with GeForce Now’s 4080 Ultimate tier, we’re genuinely excited about the changes that are making their way in the newly launched no-cost upgrade. While we haven’t been able to test gameplay in 240 with Nvidia Reflex, the addition of ultrawide support at 120fps is more than enough to keep us busy.

GeForce Now will be upgrading the Ultimate tier today for members in and near the following areas:

  • San Jose
  • Los Angeles
  • Dallas
  • Frankfurt, Germany

For those who won’t see the 4080 upgrades right off the bat, ultrawide support will still be made available to the existing 3080 tier. On top of that, Nvidia will detail new cities each week where servers are being upgraded to the newest 4080 Ultimate level. Upcoming server locations will be found here.

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